We apologise to our long-suffering readers. We’ve been away for too long that we have no idea how to craft an appropriate apologies without sounding like clingy, readership needing, page-view counting blog. Which we totally are. But you see, the Nigeria’s madhouse effect is gradually beginning to reflect on our carefully maintained schedules and we’re also going topsy-turvy. Really, there’s been lots of fun activities going around in the past few weeks. It’s a combination of : million dollar rewards, romance in the banks, wars and rumours of wars, killing of the gays, and the most important of all—Big Brother Africa.
But of course, it’s no real concern to you what assholes are waging wars, and which farmer’s ox is gored as long as you continue to have your three square meals and DSTV subscriptions. After all, life is short and fleeting, and the essence of getting up at unholy hours and going to bed at unholier hours, commuting to work with the suffering of a martyr, is to be able to be as happy as as practicable in this up and down world. that agreed, why then do folks get all riled up over issues that, when all the cards are down, neither takes a morsel of food nor cancels their right to watch that sweet African Magic?
And this brings us to the story of Lilliput (and Blefuscu–which is unimportant) and the issue of the Lilliputian Big-Enders and Small-Enders. These names would sound familiar to those of you who actually sat up to listen to the boring drone of that damned literature teacher (we will pray for your wasted childhood) instead of fantasizing over the potential response to the love letter hastily scrawled on a sheet of 2A Onward Big Exercise Book.
But back to literature class, the aforesaid Lilliput and Blefuscu were two neighboring island “kingdoms” in Jonathan Swifts book, Gulliver’s Travels. (Insert appropriate expression of recognition here.) Now, Lilliput had been at war with Blefuscu for a while, principally because the trouble seeking Blefuscu encouraged and supported some errant Lilliputians who had refused to toe the generally accepted beliefs of Lilliput. You see, it is a religious belief of Lilliput that a boiled egg (yep, religion does talk about food) should be broken “at the convenient end” before it is eaten, so the scripture said. Traditionally, “convenient end” had been interpreted as the “big” end of the egg—until some folks decided it actually meant the “small” end of the egg. The Small-Enders eventually converted most people to this religious thinking and gained the rulership of the kingdom. But some die-hard Big-Enders, now the minority, would have none of that shit. They got reinforcement from Blefuscu and a series of religious civil war began in which “…one Emperor lost his life, and another his crown.” Yeah, it was that bloody, they took that egg-breaking business very seriously.
But you see, it’s easy to make light of this story when you are unable to apply it to current realities. There are lots of Big-End and Small-End issues that cause unnecessary friction in real, everyday life. Of course, it is proper to hold a belief and stick to it, but it is improper to force that belief on others. Even more improper: taking violence or the threat of violence in order to force that belief on others. Because, as someone said, beliefs are like big swinging dicks—it’s good to have one, but bad to wave it in someone’s face. Only a club, tribe, cult and other exclusive societies requires that everybody must maintain the same beliefs. But in a complicated, admittedly fucked-up world, such as we have today, beliefs have gotten to complicated and numerous that everyone had better share the damned space together or simply blow up the world in the process of determining which belief will survive and which one must die.
And that’s the lesson for today, folks: the world doesn’t belong to anybody. You meet stuff here, you’ll leave stuff here. And all the stuff you think you’ve built up forever can be blown off in the puff of a madman’s nuclear bomb in a part of the world you didn’t even know exists. But as long as you’ve got to share this tiny portion of Space with other people, history has proven that any attempt by any majority to dominate a minority for the purpose of forcing everyone to behave in a particular direction always results in disastrous consequences. So you see, it boils down to everyone having a peace out or everyone having a piss out.
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Don’t get fooled by the litigious nature of today’s topic. Frankly, we don’t like lawyers much. They tend to be an overbearing, cagey, self-infatuated, narrow-minded, briefcase slinging lot with an overblown estimation of their own relevance. Today’s post is not a free advert for lawyers, so don’t punch a hole through your screen yet—and the gods know, you have every reason to do so at the thought of those assholes. We’d sooner demand for the left eye of your only child than send your innocent psyche into the tortuous mindfuckery of a lawyer’s solicitations. And if you are any part of humanity, you should be fuming right now at that nefarious idea of having to interact with a lawyer.
But, leaving the vexatious issue of lawyers aside. There’s that whole problem of ensuring law and order in a society. In other to have an organised and functional society, some form of law is necessary. You need a system of rules that, at the very laziest, ensures that folks do not trample other folks’ right and provides a system of settling disputes—so that we won’t all resort to dragging out fans of opposing teams on the streets and slashing their throats at the end of every football match.
But such a system of rules will be ineffective if no one utilizes or implements it. And that’s what you’ll see in Nigeria today: a scenario where the freaking rules exist only as a mere shadow which we pay lip service to. The real substance of our legal system is whatever shitty action happens to be the generally acceptable standard at the moment—such as throwing tyres around people’s necks and setting them on fire, calling soldiers to kick the ass of your debtor, burning down a whole village or lying in wait for the person who insulted you on the internet and punching their face into another dimension.
Take another example: the inherited idea from the English legal system that everyone is “innocent until presumed guilty”. This optimism may work well in a society with proper police investigative techniques and sufficiently motivated law enforcement and judicial officers. But in a country where there are several loopholes for a suspect to sidestep the system, it is just more convenient for folks to stone the person to death instead of having him arrested. Now, we have no proof of our next statement, but a system of “guilty until you can prove yourself innocent” should make plenty folks happy here. Once you get arrested for any reason—you’re screwed and its up to you to unscrew yourself, which should be easy, if you’re actually innocent.
This avoidance of the judicial process is, again, not entirely your fault. Our legal system is not “ours”. Instead, it is the bastard child of the English colonists—more suited to the judicial procedures of a Kirikiri fiefdom than to the adjudicatory rules of a civilized society. And that is why some anomalies occur—such as a man going to jail with hard labour for stealing a phone while another pays a fine for defrauding the country of billions of Naira. Because, you see, when they were drawing up the criminal laws, it didn’t occur to the damned colonists that black folks might be clever enough one day to steal more money with a pen than with a machete.
And that’s why you need to take the legal system of your society more seriously—don’t be afraid to sue or be sued. Oh, of course, there’s those damned lawyers who come in and fuck up the entire process till doomsday. What with their adjournments, processes, pleadings, writs, motions, injunctions, objections, appeals, vegetables and rotten tomatoes. But, here’s the fact: lawyers and their application of law are only a fragment of society—and not greater than it. That’s why you can elect politicians into the executive and the legislature—so they can enact and execute the rules that make up the judicial system. You, as society, can change the entire legal system. You can rewrite the rules and limit—or increase—the fuckery of lawyers within the system. And the feeling of achievement you get from that alone is totally worth the effort.
And we’re absolutely not joking. We need a proper, “home grown” legal system. Law and order is too important to leave into the hands of the English system trained lawyers and judges you find around today. Few of these lawyers are interested in the betterment of the legal system, rightfully too. That’s your job—not theirs. You should be able to rewire your political mindset from the question of which candidate can arrest some specific individual to the question: “who can effect a system-wide legal reform?”
There are more important aspects to the functioning of a society than the simple arrest of corrupt officials. Any body can arrest anyone, but it is only a rational human that can create an effective system of rules for the allocation of resources and the settlement of disputes. When that system is set in place, you will not have to worry about lawyers and their headaches—you will be more concerned about the rule of law. And if you disagree with us on this, we are going to hunt you down, wait for you to step out of your door and hit you in the face with a lawyer’s briefcase.
Today, we want to take a look at one of our national psychological deficiencies. Of course, we do that a lot on this blog—taking looks, that is, not that we are psychologically deficient (although many of our readers will disagree with that claim). For instance, we’ve talked about our misguided idea of heroism here, made fun at our love for “food” here and then risked inciting your anger here by curling up our noses at your constant lookout for divine favour.
You see, we could talk about politics and yab the government all day long, its easy to do. But in reality, we won’t be able to change the mental state of the government until we change our own mentality first. And what better way to inspire change than through well tested fables? So let’s start with a well known fable, certainly familiar to our readers who had already contracted puberty before the invention of the world wide web. Its the classic story of the farmer, his son and his donkey. We said “his donkey” and not “his ass” because we don’t want to offend some of our more sensitive readers.
Now, here’s the condensed version of the story. A man and his young son are on their way to town, and the two were accompanied by a donkey, for no clear reason. Father and young son started off the trip to the mall by walking beside the donkey—but folks criticised them for being damned hypocrites and urged them to ride the blasted ass. So, the father rides the ass and the boy runs along. But this solo ass-riding by the man doesn’t sit well with some other people, and they tweet comments accusing the father of child abuse. So the son rides the ass instead,but the family have to contend with twitter critics who sub the son for lacking respect for the elderly. Frustrated, both men ride the animal, but folks post pictures on facebook showing them as being cruel to animals. Frustrated, the father and son tie the donkey to a pole and they carry it on their shoulders— and inspired a perfect LOL moment for generations to come.
The ostensible moral of the story is, of course, that you can’t please everybody, and, also, that donkeys are bad for business. But there’s another lesson we can extract from the story which, for the purpose of our discussion we will call: “The Danger of Spinelessness.” This moral, though connected to the moral of avoiding trying to please everyone, is also distinct in itself. Essentially, the Danger of Spinelessness states that when you lack principles, you will be shifted right and left by every change in circumstance.
The story illustrates the life of a man who has no principles. Here was a farmer who had no clear definition of why he had a donkey and what he expected from the donkey. His attitude to the donkey was dependent on the current fashion trend. He was inspired, not by an innate principle of life, but by kowtowing to the wishes of everybody— a way of life more aptly described as “Mission Impossible”.
Unfortunately, quite a number of folks around us—and ourselves too—are without defining principles. The principles of a clown are not necessarily a socially acceptable norm, but they define the clown well enough. As we’ve pointed out before, if your principles are definite, you will spend more time achieving your goals and waste less time defending yourself to people.
And that is why heroes are getting rare—too many people prefer to swim with the circumstances rather than being principled. In this sense, “principled” does not mean disciplined or harsh, it simply means staying true to one’s philosophies irrespective of the circumstances in which one is. But what if you have no principles? Well, that’s awesomely unfortunate. What do you want to achieve in life? How do you intend to get it? What will you do when you meet an obstacle? You should be able to coherently answer these questions or quietly close this page now.
Take a look at one of the daily instances that shows how people can be one thing somewhere and the opposite elsewhere. The bossy team leader becomes subservient when reporting to the MD, the usually irate MD becomes a sniveling lackey when discussing with the Chairman, the ordinarily arrogant Chairman toadies up to the Minister of Commerce, and the disciplinarian Minister is a “yes man” to the President. A man is confident in one place and a sycophant in another. A man is all for the truth in one place, carefully editorial in another.
Of course, philosophies change, and people abandon some principles and take up new ones. Russia moved away from the communist mindset and America is gradually moving away from absolute capitalism. But a change in principle should be more like the change of a caterpillar into a butterfly—which is fundamental, and not like the “change” of the chameleon—which is circumstantial. When reality proves a principle to be wrong and unworkable, by all means abandon it and fashion out a better one. As Lowell, said, the foolish and the dead alone never change their opinions.
And that’s the bone of our beef today: developing the ability to decipher between what is principled and what is circumstantial. Circumstances will always change. Life has always been cyclical. Your philosophies shouldn’t be defined by who you are with, what position you occupy or where you are. Your principles should be identifiable and persistent. Because, at the end of the day, what matters is not the circumstances that surrounded you, but the person you were. But, we will make no attempt to judge you on this blog, because after all, we say “ass” when we promised not to say it, and that’s just unprincipled of us.
You know we are asking for trouble on Idlemindset when we reference God in what is clearly an irreligious blog. Now that its virtually becoming Nigerian law not to take God’s name in vain, we really can’t predict the response of you, our dear, religiously sentimental, readers. Nigeria is a religious country and no one screws around with their God or Gods or gods. No one, that is, except us. Of course, when we use the word “God” on this blog, we expect you to fill in the relevant, itty-bitty details by yourself: e.g. gender, looks, musical preference, number of angels and tolerance level for bullshit. In fact, for our own purpose, and because we love women, we will consider God as a kindly ageless woman with plenty angels (three of whom will die shortly), listens to Afro hip-hop and has an unlimited tolerance for the bullshit we do everyday.
But today’s post is not geared towards a psychoanalysis of the nature of God, nor is it about defending the independence of God—She is perfectly capable of doing that Herself, otherwise She would have resigned the title “God” long ago. Instead, we’ll focus our precious time on examining that alarming, and almost specifically Nigerian, culture of invoking God in every half-assed achievement scenario, however irrelevant. And the latest of these infatuation with spiritual controllers is the relegation of God to the role of a favoritism prone, country partisan, asshole of a football official who lets one team win and double-crosses the other team.
Here’s an example of how prevalent that mentality is: at a barbershop yesterday, during the match against Ivory Coast, a Nigerian watching the play had a near heart attack when someone playfully suggested that some juju must have been involved in the seemingly improved performance of the Super Eagles. This cardiac-prone gentleman, like a desperate defense attorney, seriously began to rebuke his fellow fan for ascribing to Ifa what was clearly the handiwork of the Christian God. “This match belongs to Jehovah” he said with profound insight, and three angels collapsed and died on the spot (we warned you).
You see, playfully ascribing a football match to juju is one thing, seriously ascribing it to God, instead of hard work, practice and random factors, is another. The uncomfortable truth is this: God is freaking indifferent to the African Cup of Nations. And the Barclay’s Premier League, and the World Cup. But apparently, Mr. Keshi clearly thinks God is a Nigerian, because during the press conference after the victorious match, he confidently proclaimed that “God is wonderful, the boys showed character.” In fact, he started the conference with the verbal equivalent of tossing the ancestors a libation before commencing a social drink: “First of all, I want to thank God….”
Now here’s the crux of today’s post. Its okay to thank God in everything. But superstitious belief should not be confused with a personal thanksgiving. In a country where religion precedes common sense and folks are convinced that supernatural forces, and not human factors, decide what happens, we should not hesitate to fight against that mentality wherever it pops up. We will achieve a great deal more if we thank God less and work harder, than if we thank God more and work less—and it doesn’t matter what your religious leaders tell you. In any case they will be the first to abscond if this country crashes from the weight of their superstitious influences.
And God doesn’t mind your focusing less on superstitions, really. That’s why She gave you that pound of meat contained inside your skull—so get the fuck out and use it. And just like a fish doesn’t wait for God before using its fins, or a bird before using its wings, you shouldn’t sit on your sorry ass, praying, waiting for meat. Unless, of course, you live a zoo. Otherwise, you just have to work for your own goals. God is awesomely indifferent to your football matches, your fixtures, your players or your coach. And the same applies to a lot of everyday life and activity. The supernatural realm is very, very indifferent to a lot of things you consider very, very important.
And so what’s the use of religion and spirituality? Religion is an internal influence, not an external one. Your religion is a personal spiritual business, its not a physical force that will change things for you. Your religious beliefs will not change the laws of nature, logic and human psychology. Whatever your religion, either primitive ancestral worship or the more advanced Christianity, Islam and their several counterparts, if you jump from a skyscraper and fall on a rock below, you will break something. If you work studiously towards a goal, you will get it. Religion could give you knowledge, but it won’t give you resources. Religion could give you enlightenment, but it won’t give you progress. Religion could give you inspiration but it won’t give you success. You just have to do that freaking work yourself. And with that said, get off this blog and go do something useful.
P.S. Remember to order my short play “Death in the Dawn” here. It will not change your life, but it will entertain you some. 😀 😀 😀